Lovers of Pleasure More Than Lovers of God
"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. –2 Timothy 3:1-5
I would like to discuss a behavior that is caused by our carnal nature. This behavior can become a big problem if we aren't careful. Untreated, this behavior can develop into an addiction (an addiction is a behavior which cannot be controlled by its victim). Of course, this problem is easier to overcome if it is detected at its onset than after it has gained control.
This is why people should be aware of this disorder and its symptoms. I call this disorder "spiritual-obsessive-compulsive-disorder" or SOCD.* Obsession begins when a person becomes excessively concerned or focused on something. An obsession can grow to the point that it begins to cause harm to its victim and/or those around him. Compulsive behavior, the twin sister of obsession, is an unwanted response (the loss of restraint) to the obsession. If an obsession becomes strong enough, a victim of SOCD will do whatever it takes to gratify the obsession even though he intellectually knows that his actions will bring harm to himself and/or others around him.
*SOCD is not to be confused with OCD. Mental health professionals have narrowly defined OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) as a involuntary disorder that is caused by various types of anxiety. Victims of OCD require specialized treatment by trained professionals.
To the untrained eye, people suffering from a mild case of SOCD look normal, they act normal (at least in public) and they seem to be getting along with the challenges of life as well as anyone else. However, those who are well acquainted with victims of SOCD sense that "something isn't right" even if they don't understand what is going on.
They realize that the victim of SOCD is not balanced, that is, using good judgment in a particular way. They detect the victim is making foolish decisions in some area of life and they can see that these decisions are producing serious and unnecessary consequences. Victims of SOCD will admit that their behavior is "not good," but they are powerless to stop their obsessive compulsive behavior. Those who live with or work around victims of SOCD know that the victim is likely to become hostile if his obsession is criticized or condemned.
Therefore, it can be very difficult to discuss an obsession with a victim of SOCD because the victim is often frustrated with himself. He knows that he is out of control, but he also knows he cannot stop what he is doing. Even though a victim of SOCD has every intention to do the right thing, he is unable to follow through. Ironically, victims of SOCD often justify and/or rationalize their behavior – even after it is clear to them and others around them that the obsession has become harmful.
Before you say to yourself, "Wow! I’m happy that I don’t have SOCD," let’s examine one of many progressions that can lead into SOCD. Please consider these two simple statements: First, everyone on Earth loves pleasure. (Even a masochist gets pleasure out of suffering.) Second, few people are truly content. Because these two statements are true, most everyone is a candidate for SOCD.
Here’s a short test and see if you are spiritually progressing toward SOCD: Do you love something or someone too much for your own good? Do you love something so much that it is hurting you and/or those around you? For example, do you love food so much that you constantly overeat? Do you love your work so much that you don’t have time to rest, to worship God or to associate with your family and friends? Do you love your job so much that it is more important than anything else in your life?
Do you love money so much that you can’t bear to part with it? When was the last time you gave cash as a gift – not counting obligatory gifts such as birthday, Christmas, anniversary, etc.? Do you love sex so much that you think about it constantly? Do you love your children so much that you can’t discipline them for their own good? Do you love your pet more than the people around you? Do you love fashion so much that you spend hours shopping or looking through catalogs? Do you love sports so much you can’t bear to miss a game when your team plays?
Do you love your car so much that any flaw is distressing? Do you love the praise of others so much that you actually think of ways to get praise? Do you love taking first place in a contest more than those participating with you? Do you love your home and furnishings so much that you spend every available dollar for more stuff to put in your house? Do you spend more than you should on things that bring you pleasure? These simple questions should give you an idea of how SOCD can begin – it can begin with loving something so much that it causes harm.
But Wait! There’s More.
The devil and his demons study each of us very closely to see what inherited predispositions we have. They constantly stress test our "want gland" to see if they can create discontent. After they determine our weakness and the state of our discontentment, they get together and come up with a series of tailored temptations to induce us into pursuing a life of leisure and pleasure. Often, the first temptations into pleasure (self-indulgence) are not sinful, and this fact makes the devil’s effort to stimulate the "want gland" very successful. After all, there’s nothing wrong with wanting – is there? But, after we have participated in a little pleasure and discovered what a good thing that was, it only stands to reason that more pleasure is better.
As a lifestyle of finding pleasure develops, the devil positions us where he can finally begin to work us over. By leading us into an acquired taste for pleasure, he has gained control without causing us to actually violate our conscience. Very clever. When the time comes to induce us into sin, the devil tempts us with a pleasure and the initial price for this pleasure is a small sin. The devil is a master at gradualism. He is also a master at diminishing the penalty for sin. In other words, the devil is a master at making sin look insignificant.
He knows that if he can create an appetite for pleasure, then he has won a big battle before sin begins because he knows that it will be very difficult to say "no" later on to his temptations. Have you experienced this chain of events?
To illustrate how the pursuit of pleasure can lead into the grip of SOCD, please consider this sad illustration. Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killer who was executed in 1989, confessed that he became a sex addict when he was a young teenager. It is believed that he killed a minimum of thirty-six women. (Even on his dying day, he could not remember exactly how many women he had killed.) Shortly before his execution, I saw him interviewed on TV and I heard him express the following thoughts to a TV reporter: "I am a victim of pornography.
Pornography took control of my life at a young age and it created an insatiable desire for sex that could not be satisfied. Desire for sex burned within me every day and my need for sex was so overwhelming that it destroyed every female relationship that I managed to start. Sexual deprivation turned into sexual frustration which turned into sexual rage. I vented my sexual rage on unsuspecting women because I knew I could get away with it. I found relief in raping and killing because it produced sexual gratification.
Violence became the only way I could silence the churning desire for sex within me. " Homicide investigators have known for years that Bundy’s chilling words are all too true. They call this type of murder "a crime of passion." Actually, Bundy’s horrible crimes should be also be called "crimes caused by SOCD."
I have chosen Bundy’s testimony to make three points about SOCD. First, as a young man, he became engrossed with pornography because it offered some "harmless" pleasure. But, pornography’s pleasure isn’t harmless, it eventually demands a sexual experience with someone. I have heard Christian men claim that there was nothing wrong with "a little porn to keep the bedroom interesting." They believe that nude pictures can’t hurt anyone, but this is not true – ask the families of Ted Bundy’s victims.
Second, Ted became obsessed with sex through pornography. He fantasized about sex and he sought out relationships with females for the purpose of having sex. Because he was obsessed with sex, no female wanted to be around him for very long. Consequently, he could not sustain meaningful relationships and his failure at finding happiness and contentment caused endless frustration which eventually turned into loathing for women. The very thing that Ted loved ruined his life and it eventually led him to commit thirty-six murders to achieve sexual gratification!
Third, Ted became compulsive about sex. He could not restrain himself. Ted Bundy had a very high IQ. He eluded capture for many years. The point here is that passion can overrule intellect. After raping and killing his first woman in order to have sex, he discovered a demonic sense of pleasure and the rest is history.
Ted Bundy became obsessed with sexual pleasure. Yes, he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he could not control his passion for sexual pleasure. Because everyone wants pleasure, everyone has a weakness for too much pleasure. Is the devil tempting you with pleasure? Ask yourself (and if you are married, ask your spouse) is there anything that I love that is causing harm to myself and/or those around me?
The human experience is made up of many facets. God wants us to be accountable, responsible and self-controlled. He wants us to be good stewards of the assets He has put in our hands. God wants to live within us and give us joy. If our life is balanced, the joy that comes from the sum of all of its parts will fill our life with contentment and happiness – a genuine happiness that produces health and well being for ourselves and those around us. On the other hand, the devil is constantly moving the world away from God and toward more pleasure so that he can tempt us into sin with excessive pleasure. "For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world." (1 John 2:16)
The devil will do his best to get us to obsess over something that appears to be innocent at first, but it can become something that will eventually take control of our life if we don’t watch out! The devil wants to control us through an appetite for pleasure and once he gains control, he can use our obsession to destroy us and the happiness of those around us. He loves to see SCOD victims imposing suffering on innocent people around them. You may not be tempted with porn magazines, but are you tempted with fashion magazines or catalogs?
You may be not tempted with over-eating, but are you tempted with the pleasure of eating out more than you should? You may not be tempted to gossip, but are you tempted to watch the gossip shows on TV? You may not be tempted with stealing money, but are you tempted with gambling, overworking or overreaching to make more money? Which produces greater pleasure: Watching a movie for two hours or studying God’s Word for a couple hours? How do you want to spend your retirement years: Serving God or enjoying a "self-indulgent life on easy street?"
Ah, the temptation for pleasure is so easy – so pernicious. No wonder the apostle Paul wrote, "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money. . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power." The highway into SOCD is broad and many are traveling down that road without realizing their destination. Unchecked, the power of sin will overpower us! Paul wrote, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me." (Romans 7:15-17)
We have to be on guard against the devil’s tactics. Paul wrote, "But godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6) At this time, our nation is consumed with the pursuit of pleasure – "eat, drink and be merry" – just as it was in Noah’s day. Pleasure is momentary, but true joy springs from knowing God, living the life that He has called us to live. Yes, a measured amount of pleasure is important in every life, but when we become hooked on pleasure, we’re in trouble. Too much pleasure deadens our spiritual interests.
Too much pleasure is intoxicating. When separated from God and His peace, it becomes easier to experience obsession and an obsession can lead to compulsive behavior which, in the end, is harmful and destructive.
The world offers more entertainment, bigger thrills and chills, extreme pleasures and greater luxury to satisfy discontentment, but the Lord offers a peace that passes understanding. Which do you want? Jesus said, "Come unto me . . . .and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) He is looking for disciples – those disciplined by His teachings and matured by His grace. The apostle James wrote, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4, italics mine) If you want to be free of discontent and obsession, turn to Jesus, the King of Peace.
Ask Him to give you the power to overcome. His truth and calling will set you free.